I want to thank Marc Shea at Performance Anxiety profusely, for allowing the spotlight to shine on my new Aquamarine Records signee, Jamal Hassan aka Kid Anansi. This is really more Jamal’s interview than mine, and will give you an idea of how funny and brilliant he is! I am proud to have him on the label! Oh, and I talk about pearl harbor 2020 as well…
LIVE UK INTERVIEW TUES 3/23
Coming up this Tuesday the 23rd I will be doing a live interview with John McQuaid of UK station Cofton Radio - if you're up at 4:50 PM EDT (or 20:50 UK) and feel like tuning in, here's the link: https://www.coftonradio.co.uk/ I couldn't get the live stream to work on my computer, but that's probably because I have 10,000 files and browser windows open (only a slight exxageration...)
I must admit, this review truly blew me away - and came at the exact right time for me, as I had just come through dealing with a month long series of bureaucratic, legal, and personal nightmares! Dave Cantrell’s eloquent and extremely generous review of ph 2020 showed me that he GOT IT. Of course, being reviewed at once with a singer-songwriter I had not yet heard of, (but felt instant kinship with due to our apparently mutual love of the ellipse) I had to listen to her record twice, once without, and once with lyrics in front of me, before posting about this review. Arrica Rose and the …’s “Technicolour Blue” contains amazing lyrics, as in “Oh Jennifer’s “You wear indifference like a silver spoon…How quietly you can break your own heart.” But I have to say that her brilliant mind-meld (link in the review) of “Once in a Lullaby (Over the Rainbow For What It’s Worth Ohio)” is definitely my favorite. It perfectly describes how I feel about where we are now: a combination of hope with an understanding of our responsibility to work toward achieving the potential of that promise…
But I still can’t figure out who Sandy is?
This is the interview that was originally meant to be live, but due to technical difficulties (seriously now!) just went up. I really want to thank Finn Miller of Finn’s Revolution and WUSB Radio for his great support of the music on pearl harbor 2020, and well as his kind patience with my ramblings. No idea how he edited it all down, because it could not have been easy! Check it out here if you dare: https://audioboom.com/.../7814899-alpha-cat-s-elizabeth...
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one... Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts." Albert Einstein
Alpha Cat aka Elizabeth McCullough is re-releasing Alpha Cat’s first full length LP, 2001's Pearl Harbor, in an expanded edition as pearl harbor 2020 on February 17, via Aquamarine Records. The original album was recorded over a two-year span produced by Fred Smith of Television and McCullough. And pearl harbor 2020 also features two additional tracks that were recorded and produced by Elizabeth at her home in the mid 90’s.
McCullough had this to say about this about the original Pearl Harbor album: “Let me be clear. Pearl Harbor was a collaboration. It would not be what it is without the participation of the other four members of the original band. And of course, Fred.
The band Alpha Cat came together in a way that can really only be described as magical. Real Boy had just come out, but it needed a real band to play behind it. I met Derek first, in a singing workshop that I decided to take for really no reason at all, except I know now it was to meet him! (NOT to sing the cover of “Hound Dog,” Elvis style, which was my other memory of my participation in that class.) We bonded quickly. I met Nick in an astrology class, who also happened to be a drummer, and he agreed to be in my band. (And anyone who has ever started a band knows that once you have a drummer, the rest is cake.)
The next step was to take out an ad in the Village Voice looking for players for a “dark pop” band. I met Lori at a dive bar in Alphabet City, and we bonded instantly. And she turned out not only to be a consummate musician in general, but a transcendent bass player, whose interpretive work on the songs on Pearl Harbor can only be described as genius. And last but not least, Angela answered the ad. This was a woman with a lot of experience on the road (unlike me) having been a member of the Ordinaires. She added guitar work that I can only describe as utterly unique and ahead of it’s time. With one more place to fill, I asked Derek if he would like to be in the band? And though I asked him to be my back up singer, he really became a co-singer, with a voice way better than mine! He added his own authentic interpretations of the songs, and when I say that I never had to tell him what to sing, that is TRUTH!
So with the name I originally just came up with, Alpha Cat, a band that now had three women and two men, the connotations became clear: obviously female empowerment, but also a valuation of the feminine side of our nature, the intuitive emotional side, over the masculine, the power and control side. Thus the AC motto that Lori termed: “Less cock, more rock!”
As for the album’s theme/journey, this is how I see it now… What would it take for us to see that the world in which we live is a metaphor for what's going on inside of us? And that our healing, and we all in some way need it (!) requires us to look back at our past in order to heal our future? The underlying premise behind the writing of the lyrics for the song ‘Pearl Harbor’ was fairly straightforward: if Pearl Harbor was named so before it was bombed, wasn’t it obvious that it was because there were actual pearls in the harbor? And by pondering this, I then posited myself the question: what would it take to get back to a place where Pearl Harbor became once again a place about treasure, rather than destruction? The Alpha Cat song itself, well that process was a bit more complex… The only song I have ever written where the entire musical portion was done well before the song itself took shape is ‘Pearl Harbor.’ In fact, the music was completely written, arranged, and ingrained in my memory two years before there were any lyrics at all. Period. That is because three events had to take place in my life before I could even have an inkling as to what the words to this mysterious song should be.
First, I had a brief dating experience with another singer-songwriter who had had a big hit in the mid 90’s, whose songwriting I had long admired, and whom I had met before, though at that point when I told him how much I loved his work, he completely blew me off. But for some reason, at a party in lower Manhattan in July of 1999, with Real Boy in the can (self confidence?) and Fred Smith (validity?) at my side, I had suddenly become quite attractive to him. An evening's make-out session led to another date on July 16, (which I remember solely because it was the day JFK Jr. died) a date (!) for which he had to come to Jersey City to meet me at the Sand Bar, (look it up) and we ended up first at my house for food, more of the innocent shenanigans that happened at our last encounter, and then a car ride back to the PATH station, where I had to lend him a dollar for the train (which, though he promised to, he never repaid!) As he kissed me goodnight (goodbye!) we made seemingly concrete plans for the near future. These plans never came to be, and when I confronted him later that year (after event #2, see next) to scold him for his treatment of me, I had to remind him that I was a person, and that he had hurt me. His response: ‘Do you know how many girls I kissed that week?’ Seriously. At least I got quite a few songs out of that close encounter. And also very curiously, he fully believed that his songs were not about him. When they so obviously were! Strange. And he still may…
Second, on September 11, 1999, my roommate was killed. As he was drunkenly exiting the PATH train in the wee hours of the morning, his bag got caught on the train handle as it left the 14th Street station. And after running alongside it as horrified passengers looked on, calling to the conductor to STOP!!! - he met his end when he hit the signal light as the train entered the tunnel. My other roommate answered the call from the NYPD at 6 am; “we believe your roommate has been killed, but it is difficult to determine, (because of the damage done to his face) could we come down and identify the body?” Luckily, Michael had a much stronger stomach than me, and though I accompanied him to the morgue, he did that scary and disturbing work for the both of us. And I know it wasn’t easy.
“And finally the trigger! A gig on December 7, 1999! And I said to the band - and myself: “I’m going to write a song for Pearl Harbor day!" And then it was easy. All this is a long-winded way of saying that things don’t just “happen,” they unfold. That the master for the Pearl Harbor album was dropped off at the manufacturer in LA on September 10, 2001, after two years of recording, and that my return flight was the last to land at JFK - at the exact moment the first plane hit the North tower of the World Trade Center, is relevant to Alpha Cat's story, but perhaps not many others.’ Aside from the fact that there was an exploded bomb from WWII on the cover and its unfortunate title, there was something few even realized at the time of its initial, long planned release that October; that it contained sound effects of a glass building falling down. This was all simply too much for radio that October to even acknowledge the record, let alone play it. And this despite the fact that the theme was actually perfect - a journey through darkness back to light; but people couldn’t get past the cover, and so after all that work, by everyone involved, it essentially fell to the scrap heap of history.
But in August of 2019, I listened to it anew, as I was preparing to launch Thatched Roof Glass House, and decided it deserved another chance, and that I was going to re-release it. This with of course no inkling of the coming pandemic and the nightmare which 2020 would become. And another thing; my motivations had shifted 180°, because in 2001, I wanted to be famous, and now I realize that that isn’t what I want at all, and that it was never about me. And something curious happened: because I knew that I was going to put out Pearl Harbor again, I did virtually no promotion for it, but as I watched the stats play out for TRGH, I began to notice that in spite of having had virtually no promotion, Pearl Harbor was getting more streams globally than my other two records combined. Ah, I thought, so maybe people want to hear this now, now that 9/11, the “new Pearl Harbor,” is far enough behind us that its metaphors are being received, and seemingly, hungrily consumed? And then this fall something else from my past reemerged: two 4 track cassette recordings (mixed to stereo) of songs from 1994-95, the year my heart was broken so completely that I now realize I have never written a song like “(Something having to do with…) Spring” that so purely and transparently (naively? I don't know) speaks of love. And in the process of looking for that song I found another, which addresses the aftermath of said inspiring relationship. Perfect to me in their raw imperfection, after Brett Thorngren’s mastering, I feel these songs are truly uncut gems… So possibly this album’s time may have finally arrived; 20 years later. But perhaps more significantly, because everyone on this planet right now has been forced to navigate such extremes of loss and change - and if they’ve been paying attention, also watching the process of, and undergoing themselves, a profound transformation. A transformation that the perfect storm of 2020 has not politely asked, but demanded, of each and every one of us. And maybe there's even a treasure at the end of all of this, if we choose to look for it?”
Elizabeth and Alpha Cat first surfaced on the American music scene with the EP Real Boy. A friendship with Television bassist Fred Smith led to him producing a demo, which became the late 1999 release. With only a handful of copies sent to radio stations, Real Boy ended up on the CMJ National Top 5 Add Charts twice, receiving more adds than such formidable offerings as Beck's Midnight Vultures, and Metallica's S&M. It went on to sit in the top five of hundreds of stations around the US for some time, as well as spending six weeks in the national airplay charts.
When the follow up, Pearl Harbor, was re-released in early 2002, it received decent airplay on college radio, and won several “best of the year” awards from a few dedicated online reviewers. And years after its release McCullough moved to L.A. on New Year’s Eve 2005 to record her next album with drummer Jason Smith. Smith hooked her up with guitarist Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams, John Mayer), bassist Reggie McBride, (Stevie Wonder, Funkadelic) and in 2007 seven vocal and 15 instrumental tracks were completed. But for health reasons, including a loss of her voice, McCullough was unable to complete the record. She would return to seven of these recordings some 12 years later after connecting with engineer Brett (Cosmo) Thorngren - who mixed and mastered them, and to release them as the album Thatched Roof Glass House.
Hey Everyone, My interview with Andrew Daly of Vinyl Writer Music is now online! Vinyl Writer Music is dedicated to providing passionate music journalism by music addicts, for music addicts featuring countless interviews with artists and key individuals in the music industry, as well as many interesting and unique guest columns. Go dig in!
Upon further convo with Andrew, I discovered that he is a fellow Aquarian! A quote from him - when I asked him if he had a “hard” deadline - since it was a written interview.)
“The best part of founding my own website, is I make the deadlines lol. I'd rather it be awesome than quick… I try and be very in depth. If you're willing to give me your time, the least I can do is give your work my full attention. I also want the readers to have a full and clear picture of the artists, so they can really get a hold on your work. At the end of the day, if I am not showcasing the artists, then it’s merely self-serving. I just can't do that.”
Me: A perfect Aquarian answer!
2020 (and into 2021) Much More Than Honorable Mentions
Some of the songs that got me through last year…
Tom Petty: Something Could Happen
Another of Tom Petty’s timely messages from the beyond. Warren Fu’s truly visionary video beautifully illustrates that we CAN throw away our pasts, and still the things of value will come back - even our hearts! An especially hopeful ending to the year that was largely a nightmare. Like the end of the Matrix, I can now see that the future is wide open…
Bittersweet Symphony: The Verve
This popped up on my Youtube feed after the murderous insurrection… which didn’t kill my hope, but definitely gave me pause. Yes, I can change my mold - And if I could do it, so can you. Plus - Richard Ashcroft was born on September 11. You can’t make this shit up!
Katy Perry: Daisies
This song came into my awareness at a time when I was super stressed and overwhelmed, trying to get my shit done, being blocked at seemingly every turn, and fighting the urge to just give up. So when I need to be inspired to keep going, I listen to this…
(And of course there was that fireworks display as she sang “Firework” at the Inauguration party!)
Christine and The Queens: People I’ve Been Sad
This came out in May, and yes, a lot of us were sad by then…
Justin Bieber: At Least For Now
Of course written before the pandemic, but Justin is a Pisces, so psychic! A song that at least I needed to listen to in 2020 - A LOT.
FEBRUARY 20, 2021
JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. AND KAMALA HARRIS
The 46TH President of the United States and the FIRST WOMAN to hold the office of the Vice President!!!
For the first time since I left my mother’s house, I am proud to be American…
From the 46th President’s inauguration speech:
“In this winter of peril and significant possibility, I know speaking of unity can seem a foolish fantasy these days- I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know, they are not new. It’s been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal, and the harsh, ugly, reality: that racism, nativism, fear, demonization, have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured, through Civil War, the great depression, World war, 9/11, through struggle sacrifice and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments enough of us, a new purpose has come together to carry all of us forward.
And we can do that now, history, faith, and reason show the way; the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces; stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis. And challenge and unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the UNITED States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America, when we’ve acted TOGETHER.
And so today, at this time, in this place, let’s start afresh. All of us. Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire - destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.
My fellow Americans we have to be different than this. America has to be better than this. And I believe America is so much better than this.... and today we mark the swearing in of the FIRST WOMAN IN AMERICAN HISTORY elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris! Don’t tell me things can’t change!
… to all those who did not support us let me say this: hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably... and I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did! Saint Augustine said that a people was a multitude: defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we Americans love that define us? As Americans I think we know: opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and yes, the truth. We must end this Civil War that pits red against blue, world versus urban, conservative versus liberal, we can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility. And if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes. As my mother always says: just for a moment, stand in their shoes.
Because here’s the thing about life. There’s no accounting for what fate will deal you. There are some days when you need a hand, while other days we are called to lend a hand. That’s how it has to be. That’s what we do for one another. And if we are this way, our country can be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future. And we can still disagree. My fellow Americans in the work ahead of us, we’re gonna need each other. We need all our strength to persevere, through this dark winter... we will get through this together, together!
...We all understand the world is watching… So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances, and engage with the world once again. not to meet yesterday‘s challenges but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example! We will be a strong and trusted partner For peace, progress, and security. For all those lost in this past year to the pandemic… we’ll honor them by becoming the people in the nation we know we can and should be. The question: will we master this rare and difficult hour where we meet our obligation to pass along a new and better world to our children?
… (from the poem) “American Anthem” there’s one verse that stands out, at least for me - “the work and prayers of century have brought us to this day, what shall be our legacy what will our children say? Let me know in my heart when my days are through. America, America, I gave my best to you. Let’s add, let’s us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our great nation. If we do this, then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us: they gave their best, they did their duty, they healed a broken land.” - The 46th President of the United States: Joseph R. Biden Jr.
He might as well have been reading from the Aquarius rulebook. Finally equality can begin to be realized, for THE FIRST TIME in this country, (which I have long been accustomed to calling the United States of Hypocrisy - for A LOT of reasons) FOR REAL THIS TIME!!!
JANUARY 18, 2021
Today is Pedro’s official birthday. Made up like today’s MLK Day, as Dr. King’s actual birthday was January 15. Pedro’s birthday was made up for an entirely different reason: because he spent a year on the streets of NYC before he found his way to the shelter where I found him. A year old, likely to be euthanized because of it, with his jaw wired from having been hit by a car, and a respiratory disease. So having gone looking for a kitten, instead there was Pedro, damaged just like me. And when they put us in the “getting acquainted” room and I got him in my arms, he instantly head butted me. And it’s a corny quote of a cheesy line, but he had me at hello. I couldn’t take him home for weeks because he had to be fully recovered first, so I would walk over to the east side every few days to visit him - that’s how in love I was! The day I took him home, a little over a month after my first stay in the nuthouse for suicidal depression, it was the happiest day I had had in a LONG time. And while my family disapproved of my getting a cat, thinking it was too much for me to handle, my doctors saw it as a good sign: a commitment to living.
Now when I think about the fact that he came onto this planet just as I was in LA trying to make a record - even as I was falling apart, I can’t help but think that he came here for me! His beautiful soul knowing I was going to need him. BADLY. And he was one of thse few who helped keep me alive when that was the last thing I thought I wanted. He brought me joy. He brought me the closest thing to peace that was possible during those years. And he gave me comfort and love. And he helped see me to the place of healing I’ve finally found. I thank the universe every day for him!
So this little video is from a day that had been more than usually stressful. When my friend William called and I told him about my day, he said “well you seem pretty Zen now?” And I sent him this photo and said, “with this cat in my lap, purring, staring into my eyes with love and adoration, how could I NOT be Zen?”
So Happy Birthday Pedro! Thanks for 13 years of companionship and love. You saw me through the darkest years of my life, and you mean the world to me!
(Full disclosure: the purring is actually Fiona. I recorded her yesterday Am when SHE was in my lap, because I really wanted the full effect with this Pedro pic)
DECEMBER 16, 2020
Brett Thorngren’s totally new master of “Something of Value” from our upcoming release: pearl harbor 2020, is track #5 (my lucky number!) on the winter edition of Relix magazine’s CD sampler and Spotify playlist! Please check it out, and share if you are so inclined.
Spotify playlist: https://bit.ly/RelixPlaylistDEC20
DECEMBER 5, 2020
pearl harbor 2020 will be available for pre-order from now until February 16, 2021, at the discounted price of 11 bucks for either digital downloads or CD, which includes an instant download of Brett Thorngren's new master of the title song! And if you order the CD, which has new and original artwork and lyrics for the original 13 songs, you will receive the digital version for free, and lyrics for the two new/old songs as well!
AUGUST 29, 2020
From illustrator3music.com: New York City emerging recording artist Alpha Cat unveils the visual for the compelling single “Thatched Roof Glass House”
JUNE 27, 2020
Alpha Cat Live at Vox Pop, Brooklyn, NY July 21, 2005 is now set to premiere on Tuesday, June 30 on PopMatters.com with a new accompanying interview with E. Track will be available on this website at midnight July 1. All proceeds for sales will be split equally between the Boris J. Henson Foundation and Bring Change to Mind, two mental health initiatives dedicated to helping destigmatize the seeking of, and access to mental health care for all…
Due to the coronavirus pandemic putting many people out of work, and needing stimulus and comfort while they are in quarantine, I am selling the entire album of Thatched Roof Glass House for 50 cents, while an individual track goes for 10 cents. There is now an option to pay what you want if you are able..
New Album: Thatched Roof Glass House
"(Elizabeth McCullough of Alpha Cat has produced) the stunning Thatched Roof Glass House, with musical co-conspirators Fred Smith from Television as co-producer (on Black Hole), guitarist Doug Pettibone from the Lucinda Williams and John Mayer orbit, Reggie McBride (Stevie Wonder, Elton John) on bass and Jason Harrison Smith on drums, who has laid down the rhythmic foundation for such musical luminaries as Albert Lee, Kelly Sweet and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. The musical results speak for themselves. The NYC punk-pop aesthetic shines through with attention and detail. The music is both poppy and underground performance art at the same time. It is also done with the confidence and shine of a woman who has lived life and faced hard times emotionally and physically. Young girls in the same musical fields usually have to manufacture such emotional musical content. Alpha Cat just opens her mouth and it pours (out) with an authority 23-year olds do not have the life experience to muster.."
THATCHED ROOF GLASS HOUSE
As a songwriter, I seem to have always been writing letters to my future self. Almost as a rule, each song that I have written doesn’t reveal it’s entire (?) meaning to me until sometimes years later, or upon hearing a listener’s perspective that I hadn’t thought of before they shared it. And of this song itself, even though I wrote it years ago, I didn’t truly understand the full meaning of the title until my decision to put this album out. I thought that Thatched Roof Glass House, which just came to me from the ether, by the way, was a catchy phrase, but I didn’t understand that the roof was thatched because it was in fact, archaic!
So I can’t help but believe that the extraordinary situation in which we, as a global community, are now living is in fact the direct result of a large portion of humanity failing to love, respect and honor each other and our planet. We are all guilty of projecting our own faults onto others, rather than looking at ourselves. And I shouldn’t have to say it, but people who live in glass houses should unequivocally not throw stones...”
CREDITS: Written & arranged by Elizabeth McCullough / Produced by Elizabeth McCullough / Vocals & Acoustic Guitar: Elizabeth McCullough / Electric Guitar: Doug Pettibone / Bass Guitar: Reggie McBride / Drums: Jason Harrison Smith / Co-Producers: Jason Harrison Smith and Jon Mattox / Engineered by Jon Mattox / Recorded at Bright Orange Studios, Reseda, CA / Mixed and Mastered by Brett (Cosmo) Thorngren